Outsider Art Fair
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Gaston Chaissac

French, 20th century.
Born 1910, Avallon, France; died 1964, La Roche-sur-Yon, France


Born in 1919 in rural Avallon, Chaissac supported himself with a variety of trade jobs, working ironmonger, a cobbler, and a brushmaker. He began to make art in his mid-twenties, a passion that was interrupted by World War II and poor health. He suffered from tuberculosis, and for a time, produced art while convalescing in a sanitorium. Chaissac married a schoolteacher and settled in the town of Vendee, where he was able to devote significant time to writing and making art. After the war, his poetry and prose appeared in French journals dedicated to proletarian writing.

Chaissac’s artwork is both playful and powerfully raw. His drawings and paintings are populated by primitive, childlike figures constructed by a patchwork mode of wildly colored elements, defined and held together by restless, black contours. He extended this signature, visual collage mode to three dimensions in sculptures and assemblages made of found objects and materials: cans, brooms, branches, and rocks to name only a few. His process involved a continual renewal and recharging of the discarded and the quotidian, a transfer of creative energy he traced to Druidic ancestry.

Chaissac’s autodidactic, transformative practice was initially celebrated but later dismissed by Dubuffet, who relegated his work to the Annex of the Collection de l'Art Brut, labeling it Neuve Invention (Fresh Invention), a designation secured for self-taught artists whose participation in the art world disqualified them from inclusion within art brut. The degree to which Chaissac’s art, writing, and thinking influenced Dubuffet’s art and the formation of art brut continues to occupy scholars of their complex friendship and rich correspondence. According to Chaissac: "Dubbufet talked about art brut. The phrase made a fortune, and I was fleeced."

- Jenifer P. Borum


Selected Exhibitions

2013, Chaissac-Dubuffet: entre plume et pinceau, Musée de la Poste, Paris

2005, Dubuffet & Art Brut, traveling exhibition, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf; Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne; Musée d'art moderne Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d'Ascq

1992, Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles

1988, Gaston Chaissac: Aquarelles, collages, dessins, gouaches, huiles, et totems, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris

Selected Collections

Museum of Modern Art, New York
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Collection de l'Art Brut, Lausanne
Musée de l'abbaye Sainte-Croix, Les Sables-d'Olonn
Espace Chaissac, Sainte-Florence (Vendée)

Selected Bibliography

Minturn, Kent, "Chaissac, Dubuffet, and Paulhan: From Proletarian Literature to écrits Bruts," Kunstlicht: Journal for Art, Visual Culture and Architecture, 33:2 (Fall 2012): 88-102.

Dubuffet & Art Brut, 
exhibition catalogue, 5 Continents & Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, 2005.

Gibson, Michael, "Gaston Chaissac and the Mystery of His Solitude," The New York Times, August 26, 2000.

Allan-Michaud, Dominique, Gaston Chaissac: Puzzle pour un homme seul, Gallimard, Paris, 1992.

Parallel Visions: Modern Artists and Outsider Art
, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1992.

Gaston Chaissac: Aquarelles, collages, dessins, gouaches, huiles, et totems
, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Louis Carré, Paris, 1988. 

Nathan-Neher, Barbara, Chaissac, Rizzoli, New York, 1987

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